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It’s almost summer and we’re still trying to lose all the weight we put on during lockdown – not to send you into a panic or anything. Your favorite swimming trunks have been staring at you for weeks now and no matter what you do, you still can’t fit into them. You could buy a new pair and admit defeat, or you could look better than you ever have in them with a new body.
We speak to Serena Poon, Celebrity Chef and Nutritionist, about 10 weight loss tips to help get you there whether you’re looking for a complete transformation or just to banish the beer belly you’ve grown since the pubs opened again.
Weight loss is less about depriving your body of calories and more about developing a holistic lifestyle that nourishes your mind as much as it does your body. Learning to thrive in your body can also increase energy levels, boost your mood, improve your sleeping pattern and fend off disease. Sound good? Let’s get to it.
1. Get enough sleep
This isn’t an obvious one and often overlooked. It might even be the reason you can’t shift those last few pounds. “Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night. When you sleep, your body is resetting and replenishing, which allows it to operate optimally the next day. Sleep deprivation has been shown to be particularly deleterious for weight loss,” says Poon. Turns out beauty sleep isn’t a myth.
“Lack of sleep can lead to an increase in hunger and appetite, especially for calorie-dense foods. Sleep deprivation may disturb the hormones responsible for managing appetite and make it more difficult to make healthy food and exercise choices.” The same goes for all of our choices – when was the last time you actually made a good decision on no sleep?
2. Eat nutrient-dense foods
Ever noticed when you can’t have something you want it even more? The word “dieting” is so restrictive and you should stay away from calling it that unless you want your cravings for anything off-limit to intensify. Instead, switch it out for a “balanced diet.”
“Rather than setting out to eliminate calories or certain foods, consider shifting your mindset towards eating a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods that supply your body with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants,” she says.
Eating foods rich in nutrients can even help keep your cravings at bay. “The more nourished you are by your food, the more satisfied you will feel. Eating nutrient-dense foods can in fact help you stave off hunger. Nutrient-dense foods include fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes, and lean proteins.”
Get your zen on. Meditation isn’t just about being at peace and connecting your mind, body, and soul (but that’s pretty good too). It can also help you to lose weight. “Meditation is a known stress reliever and researchers have found that stress can lead to regular overeating of troublesome foods. Managing your stress with meditation can help curtail these habits.”
While most of us overeat when stressed, it can cause others to under-eat. If you’re an under-eater, you could send your body into starvation mode. This is when anything you do eat will get stored as fat which causes you to put on weight. Whether you like to eat everything in sight or just the very thought of food makes your stomach do backflips whilst stressed, meditation can help to manage your stress levels and bad eating habits.
When you regularly meditate you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings which can give you a better indication of when you’re hungry and when you’re full. “Meditation has been shown to support weight loss by helping people get better in touch with their hunger cues,” says Poon.
You learn to speak the same language as your body and understand what it truly wants. Sometimes we think we’re hungry when we’re really just bored (looking at you midnight snackers!).
“If you are new to meditation, I recommend trying out several different methods and finding a technique that feels right for you. Start off small with just a few minutes a day and then work up to longer and deeper sessions.”
4. Eat protein in every meal
You should aim to eat protein in every meal – every meat lover’s dream. The general rule of thumb is roughly 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. “About 60 grams of protein a day is recommended for the average sedentary male,” says Poon.
“If you exercise a lot, you may want to increase this amount a bit. If you are considering a high-protein diet, make sure to speak with your doctor first, especially if you have kidney disease.”
Protein will help your body to build and sustain muscle mass which is vital for a high metabolic rate. The higher your metabolic rate, the more calories your body can burn. That guy you envy across the lunch table at work that eats so much more than you do every day but never puts any weight on? He owes it to a high metabolic rate.
It’s also super filling. “Protein has been shown to be the most satiating macronutrient. Make sure that your meals contain protein, and keep in mind that protein-filled foods make great energizing snacks.”
5. Mindful eating
Take a moment out of your busy schedule to savor your food. Slow down and enjoy the unique flavors and textures in every meal. During the week we’re hardly ever just eating. We’re always eating whilst doing something else.
Whether it’s walking to the bus stop or typing out emails at our desk, it comes second. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’ve already eaten because we ate so quick our body didn’t get a chance to register it (cue the snacks and weight gain).
After eating, your gut presses pause on ghrelin, a hormone that controls hunger. They send a signal to your brain to say that you’ve eaten which then reduces your appetite to stop you from eating any more. Eating slower will give your brain time to receive this information. If you’re a quick eater, you’re probably eating way more than you actually need to.
“A cornerstone of my Culinary Alchemy®programs is learning to get in tune with your body to eat what and when your body needs,” says Poon. “One way to do this is to incorporate mindfulness into your mealtime. Researchers have found that incorporating mindful eating practices such as eating without distractions and eating slowly and enjoying every bite, can support increased weight loss.”
6. Be kind to yourself
“Often at times when people set out to lose weight, their inner voice speaks harshly about their body. Though this is the cultural norm, it will likely do more harm than good in your weight loss program,” explains Poon. If you slip up and eat something you weren’t meant to on a day that wasn’t a cheat day, don’t be so harsh on yourself. Tomorrow’s a new day (and the day after that, in case you need another shot).
When losing weight, do it from a place of love and positivity. Your body may not look like how you want it to, but it takes care of you unconditionally. If you wouldn’t speak to someone you care about in the same way as you speak to your body, it’s time you changed your ways.
If you want to achieve weight loss, try speaking to yourself with acceptance and patience. Practice daily affirmations, like “I am handsome,” “I am strong,” “I am nourishing my body with health-supportive foods.”
You’ll begin to see better results by being kinder to yourself instead of feeling sorry for yourself and overindulging in comfort foods. But if you want to hold onto your progress, the attitude you have towards yourself is key. “Research demonstrates that people who maintain weight loss demonstrate acceptance and self-kindness,” says Poon.
7. Exercise, but don’t try to ‘burn off’ your calories
If you’re looking to lose weight, exercise is a must. You didn’t really think we’d get through 10 top tips without mentioning exercise, did you? You’re going to have to exercise, sorry. But it’s a little more complicated than that. “Exercise is an important component of optimal health and for feeling your best. That being said, I see a lot of people use exercise as a punishment for a heavy meal or as a tool to burn off the calories ingested earlier in the day. The relationship to exercise and energy is more complicated than this and these efforts can be counterproductive,” says Poon.
“Focus first on the foods you are putting into your body and incorporate exercise as a feel-good mechanism.” We’re all about mood-boosting endorphins, but some forms of exercise are more productive than others. “It can also be helpful to consider what type of exercise you are performing. For instance, weight lifting may be more effective for creating long-term metabolism boost than cardio.” If you’re going to break a sweat, make sure it’s over a workout that has the same goal in mind as you do.
8. Drink a lot of water
Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. We can’t say it enough. “Every cell in your body is made up of mostly water. If you want to feel, look, and be your best, you will want to drink copious amounts of water every day,” she says.
“I usually recommend that people drink their body weight in ounces throughout the day. So, if you are a 165-pound man, you will want to drink 165oz of filtered water in a 24 hour period” – you got this. We believe in you.
“Hydration is incredibly important for digestive health, helping everything to flow effectively through your system. Drinking water has also been shown to reduce calorie intake, according to one study published in Clinical Nutrition Research, drinking water before a meal significantly reduces consumption.” So save a glass to have with each of your meals throughout the day to eat less and drink more.
9. Consider supplementation
Low levels of micronutrients in the body can actually affect weight loss and could be sneakily sabotaging your results without you knowing. Check your micronutrient levels with your doctor and supplement where needed.
“A lack of micronutrients is often correlated with excessive weight gain. For instance, it is possible that vitamin D deficiency is tied to an increase in belly fat and decreased magnesium levels which can lead to insulin resistance.”
But there are supplements out there that can help you to lose weight. “Probiotics, specifically Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, have been shown to balance the gut microbiome in a way that supports weight loss.” People who are able to maintain long-term weight loss tend to have sufficient micronutrient levels. To be safe, always check with your doctor before starting a supplement program.
10. Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is a type of eating pattern that supports weight loss “by simply decreasing the number of calories consumed in a day and allowing your digestive system time to repair every evening for optimal function,” says Poon. There are several different methods of intermittent fasting, each with different time periods of eating.
“My preferred method of intermittent fasting is 12:12 intermittent fasting, in which you fast for 12 hours each day. I find that this is the healthiest and safest daily fasting option”, she says. It’s also the easiest as you can count the hours you sleep within the 12 hours so you won’t have to be awake the entire time to fight off cravings. Work smarter not harder, right? Read our beginner’s guide to intermittent fasting here to discover the best method for you and your lifestyle.
Does Running Help You Lose Weight?
We asked Certified Personal Trainer Hannah Daugherty about the benefits of running for weight loss. Here’s what she said
“Running is a high impact activity that involves multiple muscle groups, and thus burns a significant number of calories. For those just starting out, moving in general will help you begin to lose weight, especially if you were sedentary beforehand. Adding in sprints and changing up the intensity/duration of your runs as you progress will help you stay on the weight loss track (if that’s your goal) and will help prevent plateaus.
Not only can running help you lose weight or maintain a current healthy weight, but you’ll also notice improved sleep and overall mood, increased lower body strength, and an improvement in stamina/endurance! Running also helps decrease the chances for diseases like diabetes and heart disease, and can be an excellent stress reliever.”